Steering Failure, Part Deux - 2009 Audi A4 Avant Long-Term Road Test

2009 Audi A4 Long Term Road Test

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2009 Audi A4 Avant: Steering Failure, Part Deux

June 10, 2009

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On Monday, Schmidt posted a list of complaints we've received about the Servotronic Steering in our Long Term Audi S5, one of which compared it to the steering in our Long Term 2009 Audi A4 Avant. While this was the only one quoted, it was not the first time the comparison was made.

Now you could make the argument that because we have one that feels like the other, everything's fine, no need to follow up. But that's not the kind of guy I am this week.
The A4 was almost at 15,000 miles, the recommended interval for service, anyway, so I brought our Audi wagon over to Audi of Santa Monica for a service and steering inspection.

Results after the jump...

First the basic service.

What you need to know here is that Audi's aren't cheap; not to buy, not to fix. The 15,000 mile service for this A4 Wagon runs $387.62. US Dollars. For that you get an oil change (New filter $19.18, Oil, $37.00), washer fluid ($1.39), a new air filter ($47.09), and a tire rotation ($30.00). Let's do some basic math. 1.39 + 47.09 + 37 + 19.18 = 104.66. That leaves a staggering $270 to fall into the labor column. Now let's divide that by Audi Santa Monica's labor charge of $160/hr. That's 1.68 hours or 100.8 minutes-- for an oil change, tire rotation and an air filter. For that kinda time, the air filter had better be inside the transmission. It's not, though, so this is just a very long time to allot for some simple maintenance.

Total cost: Arm, leg. (Cash value of arm and leg: $387.62)

Days out of service: 0.

But now onto that Servotronic steering issue. We were the third A4 that day to come in with complaints about the steering. Our service advisor was ready with a Technical Service Bulletin from Audi the second I mentioned our complaint. The condition it described was part of what we were feeling, "Customers with servotronic steering (1N3) may complain of a shudder in the steering wheel or a knocking noise when the steering wheel is turned during parking lot maneuvers or while driving at low speeds (below 5 mph)." We experienced the problem at low speeds, but also at freeway speeds. The TSB did not mention that so I asked them to check tire pressures (we'd already done that ourselves) and wheel balance (it was a long shot).

The bulletin goes on to say that the issue is currently under investigation and the interim service solution is to, "..instruct the customer that the condition will not impeded the performance or use of the vehicle. Do not replace any components. As soon as further information is known, this TSB will be updated."

So there you have it. It is what it is until they tell us any different.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 14,196 miles

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